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IS IT AMNESIA OR NORMAL FORGETFULNES?

Everyone tends to forget some things once in a while. So how do you tell amnesia apart from little moments of forgetfulness?

Audrey Wendy Woode
Audrey Wendy Woode

When the term Amnesia is mentioned, I am very certain that anyone who has heard it in movies since it’s quite common in them, knows that one way or the other, it is a health condition that has to do with memory loss. If you fall in this category of people, you are not wrong at all.

An amnesia is indeed a form of memory loss. It has to do with a person’s inability to remember facts, events or happenings, information and even facts stored in the memory or one’s inability to even form new memories.

You may probably be thinking that, that lady or guy you know who is quite forgetful when it comes to some things has amnesia. Sorry to burst your bubble but that is not the case. Everyone tends to forget some things once in a while. So how do you tell amnesia apart from little moments of forgetfulness?

Well, with Amnesia, memory loss is usually on a large scale especially when it has to do with things that should not easily be forgotten such as important achievements in one’s life, priceless people in our lives, noteworthy and memorable events or happenings, and common facts.

A person having amnesia is a very common phenomenon in movies. I have seen countless movies which had someone with an amnestic disorder. Irrespective of this it is very rare and the patients usually know who they are as opposed to complete forgetfulness of identity as the movies portray.

A lot of people who suffer from amnesia find it difficult to retain new information and even memories recorded in recent times are most likely to be lost while memories that are ingrained deeply may be spared. It is very possible that such a person can recall some childhood experiences but will not be able to recall what he or she ate for lunch.

When it is difficult for a person to learn and retain new information, that person has Anterograde amnesia. This type can either be temporary or permanent, depending on what causes it. It can be temporary in a situation such as a blackout due to consuming too much alcohol. It can also be permanent when a part of your brain called the hippocampus, which plays a key role in memory formation gets damaged.

In another circumstance where a person finds it difficult to recall or recollect past happenings and previously familiar information or previously made memories, that person has the Retrograde type of amnesia. Most often than not, it affects recently formed memories.

Traumatic amnesia is also a type of amnesia that a person is likely to suffer when he or she receives a blow to the head, probably in a motor accident or even a physical assault. This may be temporary but the likelihood is very much dependent on how grave the injury is.

Someone can wake up all of a sudden and have absolutely no idea of their identity to the extent that a mirror does not even help them recall. This usually happens when the person suffered something which he or she is not handling very well in his or her mind. It is so serious that the memory of that shocking event or whatever the person suffered may never come back. This type of amnesia is Hysterical or Dissociative amnesia.

When a person fails to recollect what happened during hypnosis, that person has posthypnotic amnesia.

Prosopamnesia is a type where the victim fails to make out or remember faces and this amnesia can either be acquired or one may be born with it.

There is a very common type of amnesia which I am almost certain that everyone has one way or the other, and that is infantile or childhood amnesia. A lot of people don’t remember happenings in the first 1 to 5 years of life.

Do you want to know an interesting fact? Here it goes; a person with amnesia may forget what he or she ate for lunch but they do not lose their motor skills. By motor skills, I do not mean the ability to ride a motorcycle or drive a vehicle.  Motor skills are the ability to walk as well as fluency in any language they speak.

WHAT COULD BE THE CAUSE?

Dementia is one cause of amnesia. There is a location of memory in the brain which is thought to depend on its age. People with dementia usually lose more recent memories first and find it easy to retain older memories much longer.

Another cause of amnesia is when there is a reduction in oxygen levels which can affect the entire brain. This cause is known as Anoxia. It is a little relieving to know that if the Anoxia is not severe enough to cause a brain damage, then the memory loss can be temporary.

Severe head injuries as well as strokes, infections and tumors can also damage the brain. This damage may lead to permanent memory problems.

It is very amazing how Stress can cause a lot of health problems with amnesia not being an exception. Stress usually causes the dissociative type of amnesia. What happens with this one is that, your mind rejects thoughts, feelings or information that is too overwhelming to handle.

When people suffer from depression, they are sometimes given an electroconvulsive therapy as treatment and this could cause the retrograde type of amnesia.

Alcohol abuse is a cause of amnesia that cannot be ignored. When abused in the short-term, it can cause blackout which will lead to a temporary form of the anterograde amnesia.

I mentioned early on that when there is a damage to the hippocampus which is responsible for memory like forming memories, organizing memories, and retrieving them when needed, it can cause amnesia. If it is damaged in the two halves of your brain, you can develop complete anterograde amnesia.

CAN IT BE TREATED?

There is no specific treatment for amnesia, but procedures and methods for enhancing memory can help people with amnesia. Most often than not, it resolves itself without treatment. However, if an underlying physical or mental disorder is detected, then treatment may be necessary.

It is very important to take measures and precautions against having brain damage by avoiding the excessive use of alcohol, wearing helmets when riding a motorcycle, treating any infection immediately its detected so as not to spread to the brain, seeking medical help as soon as one has symptoms of a stroke, one sided numbness or paralysis and even severe headaches.

Psychotherapy such as hypnosis can also be an effective way of recalling forgotten memories.

Do take note that, anyone who experiences unexplained memory loss needs urgent medical attention. A person with amnesia may not have the presence of mind to seek medical help. Do assist such a person.

Audrey Wendy Woode

A determined, hardworking and result-oriented lady. I love to read, write, swim, etc. I'm a media enthusiast. I love to connect with people.